Announced in the 2014 Federal Budget, the Government’s Restart program to get older workers back into employment has failed to deliver on target uptake.
In its first year of operation (1 July 2014 – 30 June 2015), the program has seen just 1735 older workers return to employment. With a target of assisting 32,000, this falls well short of what would be expected.
Under the scheme, a $10,000 subsidy is paid to employers hiring people over 50 who have been out of work for a period of more than six months. The employee must work 30 hours per week and be employed for a period of 12 months or more. The subsidy is paid in two installments – and initial $6500 and a $3500 bonus if the employment lasts longer than 12 months. For those who employ an eligible older worker for 15-29 hours per week over a 12-month period, the subsidy will be paid pro rata.
Employment Minister Michaelia Cash said that the uptake was actually 2500, when those helped since 1 July this year were included. “Restart is a demand-driven programme and the government budgeted for a maximum uptake of 32,000,” she said. However, the Government has conceded that there are flaws with the program and has made moves to reduce its complexity, as well as changes which will see the $10,000 paid over 12, rather than, 24 months.
Opposition spokesman Brendan O’Connor took the opportunity to have a dig at the Government at the program’s expense, “It’s the government’s program that needs a restart as it’s proving to be a dismal failure,” he? said.
“No amount of rhetorical flourish from the Prime Minister can hide the real reason the program doesn’t work – there simply are not the jobs available.”
However, it should be noted that under the last Labor Government’s Experience + Jobs bonus scheme, was equally inaccessible. Of the 10,000 target, only 230 employers took advantage of the $1000 annual subsidy also aimed at getting older workers back into employment.
Read more at The Age
Any government that recognises the need to assist older workers return to the workforce should be applauded, but when there are simply no jobs available, no amount of subsidy can help.
The death of traditional manufacturing industries in Australia has had a tremendous impact on the employment landscape. Not only are there no jobs available for those entering the workforce, there is very little hope for those more mature workers losing the jobs which they have done most of their lives.
A couple of weeks ago I met Rob, who had been employed in the automotive industry and who now finds himself, aged over 50, driving an Uber cab to make ends meet while he tries to find another job. Rob certainly isn’t alone, but could be considered one of the lucky ones as he at least has his own car and can drive for Uber.
Currently, unemployment of Australians over 55 sits at 64 per cent. Data from the Australian Human Rights Commission (AHRC) says that, on average, it will take a mature worker looking for employment more than one year, or an average of 70 weeks, to find employment. For all other age groups, it takes 37 weeks.
With the seasonally adjusted unemployment rate currently sitting at 6.2 per cent, the lack of employment opportunities for all age groups clearly needs to be addressed. Rather than announcing grand schemes such as Restart, or appointing an Ambassador for Mature Age Workers, the Government should be looking to protect Australian jobs, not opening the door for foreign companies through free trade agreements or cutting subsidies from manufacturing industries.
And what about those employed thanks to the subsidies offered to employers? When the two-year assistance package runs out, are they back on the scrapheap again? Clearly ageism exists for older workers, but until the Government looks at the bigger picture, no one will find it easy to get back to, and remain in, work.
Do you think employment opportunities for older workers really exist? Is offering employers a subsidy the best way to help people find work? Can you see any ways in which the Government can address the lack of employment opportunities for all Australians?